Buying nothing for a month was in fact tough! It did get easier after a fashion, and I learned a lot about myself.
Plus, I know you’re itching to know: What did I do with the money I didn’t spend?
My friend visited me from Portland! COVID lockdown had been rough, but thanks to the vaccine, we got a long weekend to do fun things in person!
Yes, I was in the middle of Buy Nothing Challenge, and yes, we did a lot of free things: Walks to the beach, window shopping, hiking the Hollywood sign, Venice Electric Light Parade.
Here’s the thing that made a difference: I didn’t get too miserly. We went to an amazing comedy show. We walked to get coffee at a well-known spot. We went out to brunch. I also bought a French Press in the previous week, because I figured if I’m not going out to get coffee daily I should at least make nice coffee at home.
If anything, I realize the lesson here is moderation. It’s to stop buying things I don’t need but not to forgo enriching experiences. No, I don’t need to buy gourmet coffee by the cup daily, but going with a visiting friend (or even occasionally on my own, as a treat) is great.
During this time there were still may purchases resisted, including almost everything from a Japanese beauty store we went to and one of those gorgeous melting torso candles. So yes, I didn’t completely buy nothing for the entire 30 days, but spending on special occasions (like a friend visiting from out of state) and for a specific purpose is how you’re supposed to shop!
That’s right, I paid off credit cards, added to my retirement account, and saved for a car!
As I consciously moved away from buying things unnecessarily, I became re-acquainted with the fact that a lot of people choose to live at or below their means. Even people with plenty of money and/ or fame live very happy lives without dozens of luxury cars and paid club promotions. Think Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Keanu Reeves. You don’t need to overextend yourself financially to feel happy, successful, or confident.
Sure, if you can afford it, drive a sports car or motorcycle that makes you happy and wear stylish, ethically-made clothes that make you feel confident. Just don’t work yourself too hard to afford those things, or buy them if they don’t make you happy.
It’s important to remember that being more eco-friendly, ethical, and socially conscious is not a flex either. The most conscientious thing to do is to not waste your resources on things you don’t need or that won’t bring joy long-term.
I’ve met several people who are very stressed trying to maintain an image and flex lifestyle, which leads to very questionable business and life choices. Almost like an internalized pressure to gain approval at the expense of other people you consider beneath you. I’ve long maintained as a principle of my networking group that treating people as peers is a more conscientious way to do business. There’s a clear connection between social consciousness and living a lifestyle you can truly afford.
I think the reason I was drawn to this challenge in the first place is that instinctively, I knew that all this shopping wasn’t making me happy in the long run but was filling time and the void of experiences during quarantine.
Paradoxically, it also seemed like a conscientious thing to do, to buy ethical and eco-friendly things. But as mentioned so much, it’s still not conscientious if I’m buying something new that I don’t need and won’t often use. Often many of the ‘things’ didn’t give me the joy I sought, which signaled to me that I should stop.
Plus, having too much ‘stuff’ was actually bumming me out, and now I’m using and benefiting from what I have instead of buying new, I notice a big difference.
There are a couple of things I will buy now that I resisted previously, including recycled material running pants second-hand from Poshmark to replace the ones that died a month ago, and the under-desk treadmill. I also need running shorts; I have been running/ working out a lot and needed to donate several extremely old and worn pieces so it’s justified.
I also have tickets to an upcoming show and have tried delivery from a local Thai restaurant. I am almost definitely going to get a professional mani/pedi again after 2 months of doing it myself. (Previously I went 8 months doing my own nails and got to be OK at it!) I love the relaxation of pampering and the salon I go to is Asian-owned, which is a bonus.
The main thing is that I will be mindful to avoid slipping back into the habit of shopping for no reason, impulse buying things on special, or inventing things to buy out of boredom.